Jeff Birou

Jeff entered the magical world of Disney in 1989, as he experienced “The Little Mermaid” at the age of 4. His passion for Disney has only intensified as he’s gotten older, becoming a full-fledged Disney-phile, learning as much as he can about the theme parks, business decisions, and their animated films. Jeff lives in a suburb of Philadelphia and works as an academic advisor for a big research university. He blogs about pure nonsense at LEG+JCB. Can also be see on: @jcbftw and LEG+JCB.

John Carter – Blu Ray DVD Review

I excitedly picked up the John Carter Blu-ray combo pack last week, popped it into my player, and then fell asleep about 40 minutes into the film. Suddenly, a week went by and I realized I didn’t really have the urge to finish the film. Not a good sign. But, you know, I owed it to myself, and to the creative team (who I like!), to finish the film and then develop an opinion.

John Carter, based on the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and directed by Wall-E’s Andrew Stanton, is a befuddling work. It’s ambitious, chock full of characters, special effects, and a fairly dense plot, but in so many ways it just doesn’t work. The civil war between Helium and Zodanga is convoluted right from the first scene; both forces wear nearly the same uniforms, save a batch of blue or red here and there to distinguish them. Carter’s motivations and acceptance of his status on Mars seems all too convenient. Odd edits, especially during Dejah’s first “damsel in distress” moment (I mean, really, how many times did Carter need to catch her while falling in this movie?), make following the action difficult. The acting, especially from lead Taylor Kitsch, is adequate but far from the kind of engaging you need to launch the kind of franchise Disney was looking for here.

Unfortunately, the biggest sin against the film is its lack of emotion, which is surprising, given Stanton’s (not to mention his fellow screenwriters, who include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon) pedigree. The romance between Carter and Dejah just sort of happens, since it’s supposed to, and the objectives for other characters, like Dominic West’s Sab Than or William Defoe’s Tars Tarkus, are barely addressed. If you were unfamiliar with Burrough’s stories, as I was, you probably aren’t going to find yourself invested in these characters.

I really wanted to like this movie. I disregarded a lot of the negative buzz, which had more to do with the film’s financial failures than its creative ones. I suppose that’s why, once I finally got around to finishing it, I was ultimately disappointed. It’s clear that John Carter had a lot of ambition and there are elements to like, like the Tharks, Dejah, and some of the less cumbersome mythology, but the film is weighed down by its many flaws.

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Lower Profile Disney Films Coming to Blu-ray

Though films like Cinderella, Pocahontas and The Rescuers received the bulk of the attention when Disney revealed their impending major home video push—more than 30 Disney films will be released for the first time on Blu-ray in 2012—several more obscure titles will be hitting store shelves soon.

Probably the most relevant of these upcoming releases is the 20th anniversary edition of Newsies (in stores June 19 or pre-order today). The cult-favorite is the basis for the current Broadway musical hit of the same name.  Newsies The Musical won two Tony Awards this past Sunday, including Best Original Score for Alan Menken and Jack Feldman.

Oft-maligned Disney animated films Treasure Planet and Home on the Range will be released next month on July 3rd.   If you’ve never seen these films–up until John Carter, Treasure Planet was considered one of Disney’s biggest flops—they’re worth a second look. I can’t speak to these releases’ specs, but the films themselves have a lot of worthwhile aspects.  Treasure Planet, in particular, is filled with clever design work and gorgeous backgrounds.  Home on the Range and Treasure Planet are available July 3rd.

Aside from the Diamond Edition of Cinderella, other fall releases include Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Brother Bear, Hocus Pocus and a trilogy set of The Santa Clause films. The Great Mouse Detective, a personal favorite, is scheduled for Blu-ray release on September 18th.

For a complete run-down of what will be available from Walt Disney Home Entertainment for the rest of the year, checkout below the jump:

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Disney Releases Three Studio Ghibli Films on Blu-Ray

Editor: Please welcome new guest author Jeff Birou! Last week, Disney, through its North American distribution partnership with Japan’s Studio Ghibli, released three more titles from Ghibli’s catalog on DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray: The Secret World of Arrietty (2010; 2011 in… Read More »Disney Releases Three Studio Ghibli Films on Blu-Ray